When you think of co-working spaces, do you think about sitting in an office with strangers? No one wants or needs that in their life! Jessica Liang of Nook has launched a business venture that is more than a co-working space. It is an ecosystem for creative entrepreneurs where dreams are transformed into reality. With their first space in Richmond, BC, and a mission to nurture new industry members, Nook provides the support they need to flourish. In addition to professional growth, they offer funding, training, and a genuine sense of community. As a bonus, Nook is located right at the end of ‘Food Street,’ where diverse food options can be found.
Nook is not just about four walls and a desk; Nook is a blank canvas providing limitless opportunities to create exciting projects, each designed to elevate the entrepreneurial journey. Jessica has been accompanied through the early stages of this journey by resident experts in marketing, finance, and content creation to guide members, while resident DJs and magicians host workshops and podcasts. Their annual music festival in collaboration with Interstellar, collaborative networking, and numerous other events, add to the vibrant atmosphere.
Behind the scenes, Nook’s private offices with round-the-clock workdays through secure access control are perfect for night owls and globetrotting members who work in different time zones or want to come in during the day. With an option to request a dedicated office, these spaces come complete with a personal key, a custom phone receptionist, and a prestigious business address, safeguarding members’ privacy.
Nook will soon launch markets to spotlight and promote local vendors and raise funds for charities of their choice. Vendors already include Bak’d Cookies, Batiqua, Clara Leung Studio, Invito Coffee, Tality Kombucha, Top Hat Kombucha, Gone Again Vintage, Pupper Supply Co., Doodle Bar Designs, Pup and Bahay, Yummy Bone Treats, L&J Patisserie, and many more. Nook’s current and future success can only be attributed to the incredible community built along the way, with individuals who share their vision of creating a global mentorship community.
As a seasoned UX designer with years under her belt and over seven years of experience in both sustainable development and photography, Jessica is on a mission to empower entrepreneurs by addressing their pain points through technical skills, community building, and fund-seeking support. But her commitment to creative empowerment doesn’t stop there!
Partnering with award-winning filmmaker and Hollywood production designer Uzair Merchant (Interstellar) to curate an innovative, creative ecosystem, they uplift creatives in all artistic mediums such as film, music, fashion, photography and writing, enabling them to pursue their passions while sustaining themselves.
With a background deeply rooted in non-profit grant work, equity in accessibility, and inclusion, Jessica is not opening just a co-working space. Nook will be a premium community builder and launchpad for local initiatives, businesses, charities, and primary food producers. Nook’s mission extends to connecting Metro Vancouver consumers with farms to reduce emissions, promote sustainability and contribute to a vibrant and inclusive BC. One of their key partners is Farm to Plate Marketplace, a pay-what-you-can non-profit platform that directly supports local BC farms and aims to educate the community on food security.
IN HER WORDS
“My journey started accidently when I first picked up a camera at the age of 16 and began with street photography. I was in my second year of university when I began taking photography more seriously.
“I joined several school clubs and started working for events such as galas and open mics, then started my photography business a year later to support myself.
“I worked for a local Starbucks and Sharetea, while shooting engagements and lifestyle headshots. I had no idea my hobby would transform into a business – I was mainly motivated by the positive energy surrounding me through other photographers, clients and collaborators!
“I said yes to everything, even in school every event, favour, or conversation. Although I was burning out, I put all of myself into everything I did and photographed for free as an independent and second shooter to gain skills, clarity of style, and overcome my social anxiety. I realized that when I had a responsibility to fulfill, I could talk to anyone at an event!
“Throughout my career, conflict resolution with an emphasis on supporting children during transitional stages has been a huge motivator for me, to help them find a sense of belonging and security.
“I have since channeled these values into everything that I do at Nook and in the community, through initiatives like the early-stage incubator and grant fund.
“Straight out of school, I was a teller for a year, which taught me a lot about the financial industry and the importance of protecting against rising costs and inflation. I have seven years of experience working for non-profits, having worked freelance and slowly making my way towards grant work.
“I spent a year volunteering as a teacher’s assistant for a preschool and four years volunteering for an elementary school. I also volunteered as an assistant art therapist for a senior home for six years, from elementary to high school, which gave me insight into aging and dementia.
“During that time, I studied User Experience Design, it incorporates human psychology through user behaviour, which I loved, to create intuitive designs that adapt to the user. I also loved working on a team with others who cared just as much about iterating and responding well to feedback. I started designing Minimum Viable Prototypes and developing existing designs for startups seeking Pre-seed and Series A funding.
“I was fortunate to collaborate on several projects before entering the industry, which greatly helped me grow.
“When the pandemic hit, it was no longer sustainable for me to continue in the tech industry, so I pivoted full-time into nonprofit work, which developed my desire to help educate others on grants and access to resources. Nook is my second business, which is the vessel as a shared workspace to empower isolated entrepreneurs to achieve fulfillment through access to actionable resources, skills development and a community that genuinely cares about everyone’s success. I have a way to go before launching the incubator for early-stage startups, but that’s in the pipeline!
“There are so many positives, despite the challenges, I am now determined to help create a safe space for people to rest and belong, lower barriers to accessing resources, and develop programs such as community recipe development to break stigmas and sociocultural expectations! I am passionate about the world of coliving applied to different sectors (i.e. aging, creatives, agriculture, entrepreneurs) and how other members of the community can come together to create impact on a larger scale.
“Five years ago, I worked three jobs after leaving my teller position: on startup contracts designing prototypes for funding, as a part-time nonprofit marketing coordinator, and as a photographer on weekends and evenings. My goal was to maximize my time and save for the future, aiming to build something like Nook in my late 40s. I struggled and was exhausted since nothing was stable, but I was excited.
“I felt motivated to go to work every day, to serve such a wide variety of people, and to develop my mental and creative muscles.
“I continued for two more years until the pandemic hit, when my jobs evolved into several new positions such as marketing consulting for commercial properties.
“In 2021, a year into developing Nook (formerly called Pup Social House), I had just taken on the property contract and was renovating this space with my friends Frank (licensed in construction) and Marco (licensed electrician). Most of the building of Nook took place after work where it was cold and dark, yet when I looked around the room, I saw how dedicated they were to helping my vision come to life.
“I was picking up secondhand and liquidated furniture in my car after work, one piece at a time, and occasionally, Marco would bring his truck to help me. My friend Chris from WashBros cleaned the exterior of the entire building, and I even got to try it!”
“When my space supervisor and friend Alvin joined in 2022, I was blown away by his dedication to the vision, putting over 40-50 hours weekly into Nook with me. I can’t explain how much this means to me and kept me going when I was so close to giving up due to limited funds.
“I was determined to make it happen and channelled my energy towards productivity and learning to optimize a small budget and reduce personal expenses (Facebook Marketplace was my friend!)
“I also have a lot of stuff given to me by my friends, such as the wine fridge and leather couches!
“After working in several industries, I started reaching out to contacts for coffee to discuss confidential project ideas.
“When my first two board members signed on, I was relieved knowing that my target audience and investors validated my vision.
“I spent every moment I could at Nook, thinking of ways to create an ecosystem and focusing on the community user first. Thanks to my background in UX, I used value-centric lean methodologies. I approached everything with a user-centric angle and made sure I was solving and preventing problems from occurring at every stage of an entrepreneur’s journey, from confusion to clarity.
“Nook will dig deeper into the holistic lifestyle of an entrepreneur, helping them make the first leap to start by developing skills such as public speaking, mindfulness and customized sustainable healthy routines.
“Nook is thriving because of the support of people like Natalie Yung (Natalie Yung Photography), Arpi Sylvester (My Marketing Crew), MJ Dewji (ABC Digital Marketing), Paul Simmons (co-owner of Simmons Insurance), Matt Astifan (Internet Masterminds), Brittany Michalchuk (YVR Entrepreneurs Club), Mariat Jibril (MIJ Consulting), Christabelle Joseph (Hyperformers), Gloria Zhang (The Inner Child Podcast), Jean Louis Hardy (ENG2), Trent Stonehouse (Remote CEOs Academy), Miguel Bautista (CFS Recovery), Ali Zaidi (video editor), B.Earl (Marvel Comics writer), Shannon K (singer/actor), Howard Yu, Maggie Lam, Lily Lou (Lily Lou’s Aromas) and Insta-star Nicole Wong (Nicole Wong Coaching).
“We need more uplifting workshops and event collaborations, with options to revenue share or customized plans!
“Throughout the next year, we want to expand our community and fill our spaces with engaging and meaningful events. To move forward, we are anticipating more exposure through collaborations with those wishing to host events and uplifting workshops.”
“By the end of 2024, I see Nook launching a Grant Fund and Accelerator Program, enhancing our program development, developing a solid youth entrepreneurship incubator, partnering with more local charities, developing a strong music and arts scene in Richmond (and beyond) by supporting artists, and hopefully being on track to opening a second location in Burnaby or Tri-Cities areas.
Images for this story provided by Silver Moon Photography, Natalie Young Photography, and Jessica Liang.
- Helen Siwak is the founder of EcoLuxLuv Marketing & Communications Inc and publisher of Folio.YVR Luxury Lifestyle Magazine, PORTFOLIOY.YVR Business & Entrepreneurs Magazine, and digital women's lifestyle magazine EcoLuxLifestyle.co. She is a prolific content creator, consultant, and marketing and media strategist within the ecoluxury lifestyle niche. Post-pandemic, she has worked with many small to mid-sized plant-based/vegan brands to build their digital foundations and strategize content creation and business development. Helen is the west coast correspondent to Canada’s top-read industry magazine Retail-Insider, holds a vast freelance portfolio, and consults with many of the world’s luxury heritage brands. Always seeking new opportunities and challenges, you can email her at [email protected].
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